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For all that, there was of course his famous detachment. I never understood it, and neither, from what I've seen, did anyone else. It is true that when you worked for him, whether for two years or 20, he didn't care that much about your feelings. His saving grace--and it is a big one, a key one to his nature--is that he didn't care much about his feelings either. The cause was all, the effort to make the world calmer and the country freer was all.
Reagan's achievements were adult achievements, but when I think of him now I think of the reaction he got from the young. It was as if some mutual sweetness were sensed on both sides.
The man who ran speechwriting in the Reagan White House was Bently Elliott, and Ben's secretary was a woman in her early 20s named Donna. She adored Reagan. When he came back from long trips, when his helicopter landed on the White House lawn, the sound and whirr of the engine and blades would make our offices shake. We'd all stop and listen. Donna would call out, spoofing the mother in a '50s sitcom, "Daddy's home!" But you know, that's how I think a lot of people felt when Reagan was in the White House: Daddy's home. A wise and brave and responsible man is running things. And that's a good way to feel.
Another memory. Ben Elliott went with Reagan on his trip to China in 1984. Reagan spoke everywhere, as the ruling gerontocracy watched and weighed. The elders did not notice that the young of China were falling in love with the American President (that love was expressed in part in Beijing's great square during the democracy movement of 1989). One day as Reagan spoke about the history of America and the nature of democracy, a young Chinese student, standing in the back and listening to the translation, turned to the American visitor, Ben Elliott. He didn't know much English, but he turned to Ben, pointed toward Reagan and said, eyes shining, "He is great Yankeeman."
One great Yankeeman is exactly what he was, and is.
Author Peggy Noonan was a Special Assistant and speechwriter for President Reagan
Reagan's Greatest Links
"I did turn 75 today but remember, that's only 24 Celsius." Reagan in 1986
"It's true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?" On the reputed lightness of his workday schedule
"A friend of mine was asked to a costume ball a short time ago. He slapped some egg on his face and went as a liberal economist."
"Honey, I forgot to duck." To wife Nancy after John Hinkley's 1981 assassination attempt